SHAMSUL GHANI (shams_ghani@hotmail.com)
June 09 - 15, 2008

By operating the country clocks in the forward mode, we have just tried to take the public focus away from the real issue. Such measures at best can be called window dressing. You can not make the shop keepers, who are not even prepared to reset their clocks, believe that they are closing their shops at 9 pm. The energy conservation drive recently started by the new government has met with mixed response. While in Lahore, the consumption is reported to have declined by 700MW, the Karachi traders have resisted the move saying that they were not taken into confidence before launching of the drive. They further contend that the life style in Karachi is altogether different from that of other cities of the country. Karachi, being the city of neon signs, still continues to light those monster signs. The government asserting its democratic stance has decided to take all stakeholders on board and has asked the traders to form a five member committee to discuss their side of the issue with the government functionaries as well as the KESC. The mandatory closure of shops in Karachi by 9 pm has, therefore, been put on hold at least for a week. The traders and the businessmen are holding KESC responsible for ruining their business in the wake of frequent and unannounced load shedding. The Alliance of Market Associations chairman contends that the business in Karachi has already suffered due to the prolonged spells of load shedding. Forced closure of shops by 9 pm would further damage the already dwindling business. Karachittes have a typical shopping culture based on late night outings. Closing the shops by 9 pm (in fact 8 pm) will give a deserted look to the metropolis on one hand and destroy the business so heavily dependent on night shoppers. So, tempering with the clocks and enforcing a time-based closure of shops is no solution to the energy crisis.


We are a nation who likes to shine in the face of adversities. Drowned in the heaps of problems, we are adept at coming up with something positive. The impending energy crisis has given impetus to our manufacturing skills. UPS business in Pakistan took roots as a technical solution to the technical problem of energy shortage. To start with, UPS manufactured by the cottage industry of Punjab made there way into the business houses and low to middle income households. The zero some game started with the ever increasing energy supply gap. The bigger is the gap, the greater the opportunities for the UPS business to flourish. Within a short period of time, the business was transformed into an industry with Karachi having turned into its hub. Karachi manufactured UPS are now being supplied to Punjab where a fixed schedule of load shedding makes this equipment a reasonably cheap option for securing uninterrupted energy supply. The use of UPS in Karachi was successful during the inception period, but the frequent, prolonged and unannounced load shedding have put a question mark on the efficacy of this equipment. The pattern of load shedding hardly allows the battery any time to get recharged. Moreover, the doubling of UPS prices within a year time has given the prospective users in Karachi the option to go for a generator with an almost similar cost factor. The UPS industry, nevertheless, continues to flourish and the supply orders from Punjab keep growing in number and volume courtesy the ever enlarging load shedding specter!


With a deficit of around 450MW, Karachi continues to burn in the heat of June waiting for the monsoon season to arrive when the supply position will improve a bit but the KESC dilapidated transmission system will play havoc with the inflation-plagued lives of Karachittes. Besides the calculated supply gap, the off and on breakdowns of certain supply units and cuts in PEPCO supply raise the gap graph to such heights as 450MW. Recently the unit-2 of Bin Qasim thermal power station went out of order. Disruptions in KANNUP power supply have now become a routine. Due to government's centralized generation and distribution policy, Karachi remains largely dependent on the supply level from PEPCO to KESC. Karachi continues lamenting a shortened supply from PEPCO that ranges between 200 - 300MW as against an agreed supply that too keeps varying from 500 to 700MW. It is time about that KESC reduces its dependence on PEPCO which may have its own supply problems due to seasonal fluctuations, especially in the hydel section of generation. With the ever increasing demand pressure, Karachi's demand for energy has grown to 2,350MW vis-a-vis its generating capacity of approximately 1,900MW creating a huge gap of around 450MW. A sizeable portion of this gap results from the continuously deteriorating transmission and distribution systems.

Karachi power crisis is the end product of a number of factors which need to be seen and handled in the right perspective. These factors are:

* Karachi has become a sprawling city virtually unable to absorb the mounting population pressure. In view of its individuality as a mega city, a separate independent power policy should be formulated for Karachi allowing it to launch rapid capacity expansion projects with ample funds support from the federation. The city planning also needs to be reviewed to handle the problem of population influx.

* KESC should be allowed access to long term cheap credit both foreign as well as domestic to enable it to improve its transmission and distribution systems and to go for capacity expansion / addition projects.

* Thar coal-based project should go into implementation phase as early as possible. Its potential to generate 10,000MW holds great future promise;

* Policies with monetary and fiscal incentives should be announced to attract private sector investment for setting up coal based, solar and wind power projects in Karachi.

* Country's hydel power generation capacity should be enhanced by undertaking smaller dam projects to enable WAPDA to pass on surplus mega watts to KESC. The Kala Bagh dam should have been functional by now after securing its implementation through consensus. If that could not happen even after the lapse of too long a period, we should believe that it's not going to happen in future as well. We should therefore shift our focus to alternate possibilities.